Charlotte Harding heads to Worthing to talk pies with the family run business fueling Seagulls fans at the AMEX.
In 2011 a chance meeting at the AMEX in Brighton led Joanne Hunter to make thousands of pies by hand.
“My sons are massive Brighton and Hove Albion fans and when they were building the stadium they wanted to buy some seats,” reveals Joanne.
“I went with them and got chatting to someone who said ‘you don’t know anyone who makes pies do you we are struggling to find a good supplier’.”
Having trained as a patisserie chef Joanne jumped at the chance and created some tasting recipes. After formally applying against hundreds across the country she made it to the final three before getting the contract.
“We had days to make about 2,500 pies for match day, we made them by hand from scratch,” she says.
“I don’t know how we did it crimping thousands of pies by hand working in the AMEX kitchen.”
On match days the pies frequently sold out so the quantity was upped to 5,000 then 10,000.
“It was a steep learning curve and we worked out how to be efficient very quickly,” explains Joanne.
“There was a point in three days we just didn’t sleep.”
Joanne soon realised that they needed other clients to ‘balance the books’ and that the business couldn’t run on one client. She won contracts with the Oval, Twickenham, Chelsea Football Club and now caters for about 50-60 people.
They also moved out of the AMEX and into their own premises and have a fully baked range including sausage rolls and scotch eggs which are made completely by hand.
Piglet’s Pantry now has 25 members of staff and two machines for the pies one for the base to save rolling the pastry out and a crimping machine.
“We still hand fill the pies and place the lid though,” she says.
“We have a core range and have seasonal pies, the venues have different ones that you can only get there.”
Joanne also uses a lot of local suppliers such as Harvey’s for their beer and a number of different local cheese makers.
“As we have grown our suppliers have grown as well, which has been fantastic to see,” she smiles.
“I love being able to make a difference to people. We have been able to employ people and given people opportunities they may not have had otherwise.
“We use British produce and are always looking for new people to work with.”
Selling through major wholesale and some fish and chip shops Joanne has been looking into building an online platform for the business and her financial partner suggested Esme loans, from start to finish it took Joanne 48 hours to get the money in her account.
“With the investment we are thinking about a subscription service where people can sample different pies each month from the different arenas and stadiums we supply,” she reveals.
“I have had to look at packaging which is something I haven’t had to think about before but it is hard as you have to think about sustainability of the product, there is a lot of think about.
The pies are also award winning with more than 30 awards under their belt including winner The Football Hospitality Awards, fans’ choice a number of times.
“It is good to get recognition from others that we are doing something right,” she smiles.
“I won a signed rolling pin by Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood for one of the competitions it is pride of place in our boardroom no one is allowed to us it.”
Looking back it amazing to see how far Joanne and Piglet’s Pantry has come and she feels fate has something to do with it.
“I do wonder if we hadn’t gone on that day what would have happened,” she adds. “But looking back it was a lot to do and I don’t know how we managed it.
“But we have so many fond memories of how far we have come in seven years.”
For more information on Piglet’s Pantry, visit www.pigletspantry.co.uk
Pictures: Paul Hazlewood - www.albionimages.com